Sunday, May 31, 2020

Openness is... Inviting Love In.

“Family isn’t always blood. 
It’s the people in your life that want
you in theirs. 
The ones who accept
you for who you are.  
The ones who would do anything
to see you smile and love
you no matter what.”
Author Unknown

This quote sums up how I see my children’s Birth Parents, at least the ones we are able to have relationships with. They are family, they love not only the child they placed, but also the family they placed their child in. And our family loves them back. This isn’t an ordinary love, it is a love built with faith, hope, selflessness, trust, sacrifice and lots of thoughtfulness. It is a special bond we have with no others on this earth. It isn’t something I can put into words to help someone, outside looking in, understand. It is one of those things you have to feel for yourself.   These amazing people are part of our story, answers to our prayers and givers of joy.

So to answer the question we hear over and over again “How do you have
such an open relationship?”  Our answer is,
how can we not?
How do you shut the door on that kind of love? Love multiplies, fear divides.

We choose love.
Fun paper craft to make with kids of all ages.Can make it into a card or frame it for home decor.

We try each year to get together to celebrate the Christmas season with our children’s birth families. The past couple of years it has been hit and miss and a couple of our special birth moms have moved away. But this year we had the wonderful opportunity to have our oldest daughter’s birth mom and her husband and girls and her grandmother over for dinner and some Christmas crafting and baking. Each of the children got to make their own Christmas card out of paper strips and shapes.
Go here for link to paper strip Christmas Tree pattern.
We also made sugar cookies and Rice Krispie snowmen.   We had so much
fun it was hard to see them go.  Brad and I enjoyed seeing Brenley’s birth sisters.   They look a lot like Brenley and it was fun to see the similarities! It took us back to when Brenley was that age.
Brenley with her Birth Mother, Stacey and Birth Great-Grandmother Mary.
Kitchen full of kids, treats and giggles!
The BEST recipe for a great gathering!!

This year we celebrate 8 years of complete openness with 3 of our adoptions. It has been one of the best decisions we have ever made and we love to have the chance to spend time with each birth family.
We look forward to many more years of family fun and sharing! 
*Looking for a great sugar cookie recipe?  Try this one.  It is a favorite at our house.

Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.
You can visit her blog here. 
*Originally written Jan. 2015 for Forever Bound Adoption

Wonders of a Broken Heart

The Wonders Of A Broken Heart

It began  (as I am sure it has with many women dealing with fertility issues) in a hospital as I was having yet another ultrasound.   The pain had been growing every month, every day, every time we tried and tried to get my body to do what a woman’s body should.    The pain starts out with twinges but as time and reality start to set in that twinge becomes a stabbing sick pain in my heart and my stomach aches in a way I could never put in words.  It is hole that is filling my body..spreading to every inch.   The day in the hospital was one of the most intensely painful days of my life.   It was the day my mind decided it was time to acknowledge what my body was screaming…..I would not ever know what it was like to be one of “those” women.   I am a different kind of woman.   I am barren.   My heart broke that day but I also learned alot.  It was really the first day of learning on this difficult journey to motherhood.   I learned loss….a kind of loss I had never known before that time.  A loss which was dark and cold and bleak.  Loss that would take me years to really understand and years before healing would rest upon me.    This was pain, this was loss…this was grief.

Again  a few years later after finding out we had been chosen by a special young woman to be parents to her child…after a shopping spree, painting the nursery, setting up the crib and getting so excited, pain of a broken heart entered my life again as we learned this special girl decided to parent her baby.  We respected her decision in every way but respecting someone’s choice doesn’t mean we don’t experience loss.   The pain crushed me down and sometimes I didn’t know if I wanted to live.  I felt like lead as I drug my feet out of bed to go to work.   In moments of solitude I would sit in the nursery and hold the clothes we had so joyfully purchased for this expected gift and I would rock them and cry and cry until there were no more tears and I was numb.   It was the only release besides sleep….the numbness.    Here again, a broken heart filled with pain, learned something….I learned I could love someone I never met..not the baby (although I loved her too) but her mother.   The young woman who decided to parent..I fell in love with her even though we never met.   She thought enough of me and my sweet husband to think we were good enough for her child.   Her choosing us brought a speck of hope that someday we would be chosen again.  I learned more….I grew some.   I was still in the middle of deep pain but I was holding onto a piece of hope.

This same basic scenario would visit our life 3 more times before our family was complete.   But each experience brought greater understanding than the last.   One of these times things ended differently than the others.    This experience brought pain but also so much love along the way.   A young woman contacted us through the internet and I felt an instant and strong connection to her.  A connection I cannot explain in words.   After getting to know one another over a period of time she decided to parent but then came back and was re-deciding.   We had her and her mother over for dinner.   We loved meeting her and felt very connected but somehow we felt she would parent still.    She did parent but we remained friends.   She would call us and chat or we would call her.   I chatted with her online sometimes.   She called me after she delivered her baby….and I mean right after, even before delivering the placenta.  Brad and I felt we were to be there for her and be her be her friend.   I remember seeing the first picture of her sweet baby boy.  I cried…I felt he was my baby but I knew her decision and I respected it.  I closed the lid to the laptop and cried.   The friendship continued and when her baby was just about 8 months old she called again just as she often did, but this call was different.   She told me she felt her baby belonged with us.    Less than 1 week later she placed Camden in our arms.   It was a bittersweet occasion.   We rejoiced for us and felt sad for her.   We spent a lot of time together that day as they came to our home after placement for a special dinner.    By this time we had two little girls in our family so this was our 3rd child to be placed with us.    As I looked back at the journey to this moment I saw how the heartbreak was really teaching us how to love more deeply than before.   It gave more perspective on another person’s pain.  And while there was pain, there was growth.

Sometime after Camden’s placement Brad and I became foster parents.   One of our opportunities to foster came in a tiny little brown beautiful package named Ashanti.  I picked her I up from the hospital and she was so tiny I thought she would get lost in the car seat.I loved her from the very moment I saw her.   I  didn’t know if we would get to adopt her or not, but I knew I was going to pour my love into her and she would be mine…even it it was just for a season.
We heard many things but some workers kept telling us adoption was very possible.   In the end I had to say goodbye to Ashanti.  I kissed her for the final time right before I handed her over to her father at the airport where he would put her on  an airplane and fly her across the country to Florida.  There was deep grief…deep!!!!   There was a numbness for a time.   There was pain like I cannot describe.    But there was something else…!!!  So much love it could never be measured!   I gave Ashanti all I had and because I did Ashanti got a great start in life.    The pain was still there so strong.  I grieved for a long time but even in my grief I knew if I had to choose over again knowing how I felt after saying goodbye I would still choose to say hello!!!!  I would do it all again because I love her!!!    I will always love her.     And I did get to do it again….only it was with a tiny little cream package named Chevey.   
Haley and Chevey.  My kids loved to play with this cutie!
Another baby I picked up from the hospital….another baby I poured my love into….we all did.    Another baby I said goodbye to and ironically he went to Florida as well.
This is just a skimming of what I went through to build my family.    This is just some of the hard stuff.   And there were wonderful and perfect moments where all things fell together.   But through the pain I grew….my heart grew but it had to break to grow.   I watched my children grow the same way…their hearts broke too.    But with each break our hearts expanded and we were able to hold more love and give more love to others.

In our journey to motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood there will be pain and grief but our hearts grow better that way.  Andrew Harvey says it best:  
“If you’re listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever more wonders.”

Sometimes couples will hold themselves back from new opportunities to family build because they fear loss and pain.   My advice after living and breathing infertility and adoption for 20 years….embrace the loss and pain and watch the wonders that come from a broken heart!

 Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.
You can visit her blog here.
*This article was originally written Feb. 2015 for Forever Bound Adoption.

Infertility after family building - a new journey

Back in 2000 when we adopted our oldest child, Brenley, I wasn't thinking about what life will be like when we finally have all our children in our family.   I was just 1. Loving every second of being a Mom. 2. In the process of grieving my infertility. 3.Growing to understand how the whole Birth Family relationship works and 4. I knew when Brenley turned one year old we would put our papers in again to adopt.   After each placement I knew there was one more.   Then came Spencer...our 4th and youngest child.   After much pondering and praying I came to realize he would be our last.    By this time I had grieved deeply, sought help with my grief because I became “stuck” in it and found great peace and healing.  It took many years but the healing was complete by the time Spencer came.   I was and am today very thankful for the healing!  

What I didn't realize was I hadn't been through everything yet.   I hadn't experienced being infertile after family building.   I didn't realize there were new feelings to experience and new things to grieve.  

One day I was sitting in my church congregation and in front of me sat a beautiful mom and her sweet little baby girl.   A sudden feeling of loss came over me.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I knew I had to get out of that room quick!  I did and tears came streaming down my face.   This didn't have anything to do with the fact I couldn't get pregnant ...this had everything to do with the realization I was done taking care of my own babies. I think because family building had been so difficult the idea of “being done” was difficult to adjust to.   My youngest at this point was now 4 and he was in his own church class while I was in mine.  I was alone in a church class for the first time in 13 years.  I missed that sweet time when they are little and have chubby hands that hold cute little toys.   I missed the bottle feedings and the cheerios and crackers.  I missed having my dress a mess with sticky finger goo.  Watching the mom in front of me gave me a big smack of what life is now.  No more babies.  I cried for a while that day but then I accepted my life, remembered my own joy and moved forward.  Thanks to all the healing that had taken place before, this new reality could be dealt with in a healthy way.

Another surprise came to me when I realized, for whatever reason, the idea of going to a baby shower was and is worse than going to the dentist.  I just don’t want to do it.  It isn't that I feel so sad….it is just a new reality that - hey, I don’t have to go through all that anymore.  I don’t have to put on a happy face while I watch and listen to things I never got to do.   I love that people have babies….I love their babies!  I love when my extended family has new babies!  They are so cute and sweet and I am beyond happy for them.   I have just found this is an area I don’t want to deal with anymore.  And you know what….it’s ok!   I do love to attend baby blessings and find great joy in seeing those cute little booties and sweet flowing dresses.  It is a special time and I am thankful I get to be part of it.  

I think the hardest thing I have had to face since we finished family building was a greater understanding that this challenge in life will be for my whole life.    My bubble of  “ok I am done family building, no need to worry about all of the things that go along with the reason I am infertile”   (You know the health part of is a disease actually).   My infertility issue has a name.  It is called PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Disease.  It comes with weight gain, facial hair, skin tags, pearl like cysts that cover the ovary and super fun (not!) large ovarian cysts that I have had to have removed or have the whole ovary removed. It also comes with increased risk of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.  I am not sure why I subconsciously thought this issue would all go away when my family building was over.   Maybe it was wishful thinking. :)  

In September of 2012 this little bubble of wishful thinking completely popped and WOW did it pop!     Here is what I wrote on one of my personal blogs about the day my bubble popped.

This past week I have been dealing with yet ANOTHER cyst on my only ovary. At first the pain wasn't so bad so I decided to just start my meds to start my period in hopes the period would help resolve the cyst. By Thursday night I was in incredible pain and drove myself (in the wee hours of the morning) into the ER.  They felt the pain I was feeling was due to a rupture.  I feel optimistic and have faith that it will heal and be ok. But I have realized in a deeper way"dealing with" infertility is more than just struggling to get pregnant. And "living with" being infertile is more than just not being able to bear children. It is a disease and while everyone who is infertile has a different story, women like me who suffer with PCOS have to live with the disease and all of it's complications.

I have thought  I don't want to lose my last ovary because I hold on to this tiny itty bitty crumb of hope that maybe someday out of the blue pregnancy will occur. I have friends who feel this "hope" is what sets infertility apart from sterility. But what I am learning at least in my own case is  this crumb of hope is a misguided hope... not true hope. This misguided hope puts me in harms way in many ways. I may have eggs but I don't have the right amount of hormones to allow the egg to ripen and release. When I used fertility meds to help with this I end up in the ER and the last time I ended up with a life threatening condition. Here I am 7 years after our last go with fertility meds/treatment and I am still struggling with my ovaries. With one removed and the other trying to heal from surgery, not even 6 months ago, I am still ending up in the ER and my children have to deal with Mommy being in bed. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to Brad and it's no longer going to be part of my story if I can help it at all. “

It was only a short time after I wrote this I started taking birth control pills to prevent cysts from forming.  It is the day hope died.   But hope needed to this case anyway.
On this day I wrote the following on Facebook:

“I know it is good to stay positive in life and I realize Facebook is a weird place to write feelings but I feel like I have to say this out loud to kind of mark the day and lay it to rest finally. Today the hope, tiny and misguided as it was, died.

I will never see a positive pregnancy test.
I will never grow a child inside of my womb.
I will never create a body that will be given a Spirit.
I will never feel life grow or move inside of me.
I will never give birth or be the first to hold my baby.
I will never see my blue eyes or curly hair on another human being.

I will leave this earthly existence leaving nothing physical behind to go on for generations.
I hope my children will carry my passion for family and love for them onto their children and I hope in some way I will be remembered for something good.
I know I am a daughter of God and I know Jesus Christ is my Savior. It has been a long long road to get to today. Even before we were married I carried the burden of "what if". While today is a difficult day for me I know I have many things to live for and rejoice in. Tomorrow is a new day and it will be filled with a new kind of that is sure and true because I know my Savior heals broken things. I am not broken but laying this tiny misguided hope to rest hurts... but I know once His healing is applied I will be stronger and hopefully a better Brenda.

Thanks for listening.”

While my heart had healed from the pain of infertility up to this point, I had to grieve this new reality.  It was painful.  But one thing I know for sure...It would have been even harder had I not dealt with the grief up to that point.  I am so thankful I sought help when I did…..many years before this difficult experience.  

I realize I have many more experiences to come that will sometimes hurt or cause me to remember the hurt of yesterday.   I am sharing this with you in hopes it helps you  know when you go through your own “new experiences” you are not alone.  You are normal and you will become stronger with each new experience!   

The best part of all of these experiences is the wonderful reality of family!  I have a family.  They are my greatest joys and I wouldn't trade them or any of my experiences for fertility or anything else!

 Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.
You can visit her blog here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Lucky Ones

*Originally written for Forever Bound Adoption. The Lucky Ones.jpg
Do you remember the song from Amy Grant “Baby, I’m the lucky one”?   It was a popular song while Brad and I were dating.   It was kind of a running joke between us...we would fight over who the lucky one was in the relationship.   He said he was and I bantered back stating he was wrong and I was really the lucky one!   It is something silly we did then and even talk about now.  
I feel like this happens when people who have never adopted find out Brad and I have adopted 4 children.   Suddenly we are put up on a pedestal and we are “amazing people” or “wonderful”, “kind”, “so selfless”.   These people are being very sweet so I don’t want them to feel bad but I do want them to understand the truth.   So I thank them and say something like “Oh you are so nice but really the amazing ones are their Birth Parents who made an important plan for them so they could have the life they dreamed for their child.   They  are the wonderful, kind, and definitely the “selfless” ones!   Brad and I are just benefiting from their loving plan they made for their child.   I don’t always say all of this...usually pieces or whatever fits the conversation.   My goal is to always to educate.   But I also make sure people understand WE are the lucky ones….having these amazing children in our lives….in our family blesses us and fulfills the dreams we have held close to our hearts!
Our youngest child, Spencer, was adopted through foster care.  He is considered a “Safe Haven Baby”.   There are many who comment on how lucky he is to have such great parents to help him with some of his challenges.   Just this past month Spencer had to have surgery for  a burn scar that happened when he was one year old (He grabbed Brenley’s flat iron and got a 3rd degree burn).   They did a Z Plasty to loosen the scar tissue.  He was still on the med from that when he caught RSV.  Spencer has asthma so respiratory illnesses are hard on him.  We ended up in the ER with a full blown attack.   We were in the doctors office for the asthma/RSV or the burn surgery follow ups every single day for a week.   The next week he started vomiting due to either the virus his body was still fighting or the asthma.  And just yesterday he was put in casts from his feet to his knees to help with his “tip-toe walking”.   Most of these things have zero to do with any of his life during gestation or at birth or even hereditary.   A few do since he was 8 weeks early.  But either way he has some challenges we are facing together.  After a long day I wrote this on my Facebook wall.  
He seems to be doing better tonight. Hoping it stays that way. He got his casts on today for his "tip toe" walking. He is actually really excited about them. He chose one red and one green. I call them his Christmas feet. We are still doing asthma treatments very 4 hours or sooner if needed, a different treatment in the morning and at night. He has a peak flow meter to show how things are going....his numbers are low but he is still in recovery stage. His hand is doing well. We are down to a sponge type of "bandage" that sits on top of his wound and then he has a pressure glove on top. Twice a day I take the glove off and wash his hand and apply a new coating of moisturizing lotion and then put a clean sponge on and then slip the glove back on. Sooo much easier than the big bandage changes. At night time he wears a splint that keeps his thumb/first finger area open. He has been such a brave kid. He has had moments when I can tell it is too much (usually in the doctors offices) but then he bucks up and handles it. I think of all the needs he has and I think of the decision his Birth Mom made for him 5 years ago and my heart is filled with love and gratitude. I am so thankful she has allowed us to be the ones to meet his needs! We are so lucky!!!! Good Night everyone! Thanks for the support! Sometimes it helps to post and just say "I am struggling"....I appreciate the positive thoughts.”  WE are so lucky, blessed and so thankful to have our children in our life!  Then add the sweet relationship we have with their Birth Families and we have won the lottery!   
Baby, we really are the lucky ones!

I have been thinking about this as we approach St. Patricks Day and I see cute shirts that say Kiss Me I”m Lucky or The Luck of the Irish etc.   All of our children have a little or a lot of Irish blood so it is a fun month to kind of celebrate that little part of them and us (Brad and I are a little Irish too).     I have gathered some fun St. Patrick's Day crafts and recipes you can use in your home to celebrate your lucky life you share with your amazing kids.   Or maybe you are waiting and hoping and praying this year is your lucky year!   I hope it is your lucky year!   
Cute kitchen craft by Jessica Weibel at JW Illustrations.
Fun toddler/preschooler craft by Tina over at Mamas Like Me.
These are a huge hit at my house.  Yummy soft pretzels shaped into shamrocks by Mariel at Or So She Says.
Fun idea from The Jenny Evolution.
Daniel Hunter at Snap. Scrap. Blog. Tweet.'s cute and fast paper craft to do with your kids.
No matter what you decide to do with your kids this month just spending time with them lets them know how luck you feel to have them in your life!

 Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.
You can visit her blog here.